Surprises Among the Best

And so the year’s best lists start to arrive. And as always they are as different as different can be. Understandable as individuals with individual tastes make up these lists. On each are plenty of books that make me happy, some that make me wonder, and a few that are delightful surprises. Here are a few of the latter.

Kudos to The New York Times for including Lemony Snicket’s The End on their list. As I wrote about this author already, he isn’t given sufficient due as a really good (dare I say great?) writer for children. I’m thrilled to see this on a list of seven books.

The Horn Book’s Fan Fare List is full of wonderful books that have already gotten quite a bit of attention, but one that hasn’t so far (to the best of my knowledge) is Silvana De Mari’s The Last Dragon. I must admit, despite being an avid fantasy fan, that I feel slightly drowned in dragon books of late and so I didn’t exactly rush to start this one. But once I did I was drawn in immediately. I think what elevates this one above its peers is the language. Poetic and lyrical, this book is ripe for more readers.

Happily some of those readers are at Kirkus which also included De Mari’s book on their best of list. Lots of terrific books show up on this list including one that may not be for everyone, but that I loved. This is James Howe’s Houndsley and Catina. A sweet chapter book that harkens back to those of Lobel and Steig, I am particularly fond of the first story in which Catina decides she is going to be a famous writer. Her kind and generous friend, Hounsley offers to read her effort, Life Through the Eyes of a Cat, all seventy -four chapters and figures out just what to say when the ordeal is over. “‘I am at a loss for words,’ Houndsley told Catina when he had finished reading the book. ‘I am speechless.'” Catina beamed and I did too.

Publishers Weekly recognizes a graphic novel among its nonfiction picks, Siena and Mark Siegel’s To Dance: A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel. This book has gotten some deserved attention, but mostly as a graphic novel. Pretty cool, I think, to see it recognized here as a notable work of nonfiction.

To Dance is also on School Library Journal’s list as is, hurray, my beloved A True and Faithful Narrative! One on their list that was a surprisingly pleasurable read for me is Joseph Bruchac’s Wabi. I’ve always admired Bruchac’s work, but his books are often for me very earnest. I usually am unable, as I read, to forget that he is teaching me something. But I was swept away when reading Wabi, the story was so intriguing, the characters so captivating, that I just became lost in the story.

I’ve by no means begun to delve into all the lists out already, but this is enough for now. And so —

to be continued.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Surprises Among the Best

  1. I, too, enjoyed Joseph Bruchac’s WABI. I even nominated it for a Cybil Award. I had heard him read excerpts from the book at the Peabody Essex Museum before it was published. I also liked his work of historical fiction, THE WINTER PEOPLE.
    Joe is coming to Massachusetts in early March. I invited him to be guest speaker at the winter meeting of the PAS North Shore Council of IRA.

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  2. As a member of the Cybil’s SF&F nominating committee, I’m waiting for copies of both Wabi and The Last Dragon to arrive here… There are several dragon tales on the longlist for the SF&F Cybil.

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